Difficulty II at this flow (II normally)
Length 44 Miles
Flow Range 800 - 10000 CFS
Flow Rate as of: 1 day ago 158 [CFS]
Reach Info Last Updated 06/28/2019 5:20 am

River Description

A snowmelt run emerging from the Blue Mountains with the peak usually coming in May. The first half of  the run flows through Ponderosa pine forest and then transitions to the desert terrain of eastern Oregon. This is a classic 3 day trip.


Full description in Soggy Sneakers, Oregon River Tours, and Western Whitewater.

Rapid Descriptions


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Gregory Wallace
2 months ago

Floated the N. Fork John Day from Dale to Monument on June 14-16, 2019 (see comment below). River level was 1350 cfs when we put on and 1100 cfs when we took out. At this level there are many nice Class II rapids that make for a fun family float trip. Not a problem for canoes and kayaks at this level, but the rafts had to be a little careful through the shallow sections and scraped bottom a few times on gravel bars. I'd say this was near or at the minimum level for loaded rafts.

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Katherine Hollis
2 months ago

We ran this section June 14-16, 2019. Great section of river - more forested so a bit cooler with summer heat. GREAT for kids - we ran this with a raft, a SUP and WW Canoe. Our four year old enjoyed running rapids sitting on the SUP (with adult paddling), in the canoe with an adult and hung out all over the raft. Campsites were easy to find and nice to use, length of days were also appropriate for that age.

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Jill Johnson
8 years ago

River flooded at 28K cfs at the Monument Gauge on May 14-15, 2010. Had not flooded this high since 1997 (30K). Only other flood of this magnitude was in 1925. Due to flooding BLM river ranger/Grant County Sheriff did not recommend running river weekend of May 21-22, we did it anyway. Flows were approx 8.75 @ put-in and 8.5 at take-out. (Middle Fork was contributing 2K of this amount). 1 14' raft and 1 16' cataraft and 1 tandem canoe, mixed levels of experience among the boaters. No new debris encountered (somewhat surprisingly). Campsites and their access were reasonable. No problems. Shuttle driver reported that a couple of fellas floated river at peak flow. I assume there were no problems for them. River appears runnable (and importantly, camp-able) at flows up to 15K or less. Open-canoeists can expect to regularly take-on water unless they sneak rapids.

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Karen Hensley
15 years ago

The gage listed above is not the right one for the North Fork of the John Day. Look instead at



The river gets only slightly more difficult (3- in my estimation) for levels higher than the max suggested level on this page. The rapids mostly become washed out with larger waves, and the river becomes more continuous, making it harder to rescue a swimmer. We put in at 9,000 CFS (on Monument gage) and floated for 3 days taking out at about 5,500 CFS. Others in Paddle Trails Club have told me they have done similar levels in open canoes. At higher levels you have a chance of sneaking the rapid "Surprise" on the right, but only if you recognize it in time and there is no wood. Both of those things happened to me in my kayak at 8,200 CFS but it is not much harder going right through the middle anyhow.

The take-out at Monument is about a quarter mile downstream of the the bridge, on river-right. Peer through the willows looking for a small boat ramp where there is now a nice parking lot with picnic tables and a toilet. Some guidebooks still tell you to take out at the bridge.

Gage Descriptions

The river gets only slightly more difficult (class III) at higher flows (around 9000 cfs). The rapids mostly become washed out with larger waves, and the river becomes more continuous, making it harder to rescue a swimmer. Members of Paddle Trails Club report doing the run in open canoes at higher flows. At higher levels you have a chance of sneaking the rapid "Surprise" on the right, but only if you recognize it in time and there is no wood. You can always go down the middle too.



Directions Description

We have no additional detail on this route. Use the map below to calculate how to arrive to the main town from your zipcode.

No Accident Reports



article main photo

Oregon Waterway Access Bill Set to Become Law

Priscilla Macy

This week, Oregon House Bill 2835 re-passed the Oregon House on a 52-7 vote. Having earlier cleared the Senate, the bill now awaits a signature from the Governor to be signed into law. For decades, opportunities to protect and improve the ability of the public to access and legally use waterways for recreation have seen minimal progress, while efforts to severely limit access have been a consistent threat. Oregon House Bill 2835 is a pivotal piece of legislation in Oregon, and the first proactive waterway access bill in recent history to have made it through the state legislature.


Matt Muir


Thomas O'Keefe


Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1191313 07/06/02 n/a n/a
1197356 03/06/10 Thomas O'Keefe copy edits
1197361 03/07/10 Thomas O'Keefe flow range
1199628 03/16/11 Thomas O'Keefe photo added
1213121 06/28/19 Thomas O'Keefe updated image position